How to Blacken Chicken or Fish

Blackened-Fish Blackening chicken and fish can be a lot of fun, especially if you like smoke and flames (read the helpful tips below).  Most of the time you hear of blackened chicken, blackened salmon, and blackened catfish. That’s because they’re a tender meat that will still hold together under the intense blackening process.  You can blacken other meats as well, but you’ll want to be sure they’re thinly sliced.

Tips

Before we get started on the actual process, here are a few tips to achieve the best blackening results.

  • Use a cast iron skillet.  These truly are the best for blackening.  They can stand the intense prolonged heat and provide excellent flavor for your chicken or fish, whereas other pans may warp.  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet and still want to blacken your meat, do not use a non-stick pan, instead use a thick-bottomed pan meant for higher heats.
  • Keep your food cool before blackening.  Butter and oils will stick better to a cool piece of chicken and fish.
  • Open all your windows and turn on the fans.  Blackening food creates a lot of smoke and sometimes some flames.
  • Keep your filets around 1/2″ thick.  If they’re any thicker they may not cook all the way through.
  • Make sure you use a thick oven mitt or thick hot pads because your pan is going to get really hot.

Method

blackened catfish (“Blackened Catfish Sandwich” by Mark H. Anbinder)

To make blackened chicken or blackened fish

  1. Heat your cast-iron skillet to a high temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, create a butter & spice mixture.  Melt enough butter (use a microwave-safe pie plate) to coat all the meat your making on both sides, and then a few tablespoons extra to spare.  Add your favorite chicken or fish spices to the butter and mix it up well.  The blackening is caused by the butter charring in the pan, and the spices will add to the flavor.  Cajun spices are the most popular for blackening.  You can also buy a blackening seasoning from the grocery store.  Don’t use fresh herbs, they instantly burn and turn bitter.
  3. Pat your chicken or fish dry to help your butter and spice mixture stick to the meat better.
  4. Dip the meat into your melted butter and spice mixture.  At this point, you can add a little extra spices to your meat, but don’t set it down, because you’ll remove the butter from the meat.
  5. Place the meat in the pre-heated HOT cast iron skillet.  Be prepared for a lot of smoke and maybe some flames.
  6. This step is optional: Immediately after laying your meat in the skillet, spoon another tablespoon of your butter and spice mixture over the fish.  Be prepared for a billowing pillar of smoke and possible flames.
  7. Allow the meat to cook for about 3 minutes (depends on how thick it is), then flip it over (add another tablespoon of butter if you want) and cook it for another three minutes.
  8. When the food is done cooking, you can add additional spices or lime (or lemon) juice if you wish.  As a suggestion, also try adding lime juice to your butter and spice mixture.

With a little bit of practice and a smokey house later, you’ll be a pro at cooking your own blackened chicken, blackened salmon, and blackened catfish.

Comments, Kudos, and Thoughts

  1. Lee proudly announces...

    We have this place next door to my job that had this great blackened chicken and fish both taste great. I wanted to try this at home but with the smoke an flame I don’t know. But I enjoyed the article “How to blackened chicken and fish”.

    • boistrously affirms...

      Yeah, it gets pretty smokey for sure. I don’t do it very often where we currently live for that reason. Luckily though I’ve not yet set off our fire alarms, but I’ve come pretty darn close a few times… If you know of a place that makes it great, feel free to name drop.

  2. Jessica proudly comments...

    I used this to make chicken tonight and my husband said it was the best chicken he’d ever had. I got blackening seasoning from the grocery store, after staring at the spices for 10 minutes I found one :)

    I put a little butter in the cast iron skillet before adding the chicken, it seemed to work out.

    There was a TON of smoke but I just left the front and side doors open and my smoke alarms never went off.

    Thank you for this article.

    • rapidly says...

      Hi Jessica, I’m glad it worked out for you, and I’m glad your husband loved it. My wife frequently requests this chicken and sometimes when I’m not feeling like getting too smokey, I’ll reduce the heat just slightly and use a non cast-iron pan to sear my fish or chicken fillets. It’ll still get slightly smokey, just not as much.

  3. Terri pleasantly declares...

    I use my own spice blend and I find it easier to use the pan on the bbq to save my house from the smoke and eye watering from the pepper

  4. Lori vivaciously declares...

    Thank you for the article. This was my first time blackening anything. It turned out great. I used chicken tonight but I think this will be a great way to get my husband to eat fish as he really enjoys the sear and the spice. Even my 4 year old liked it.

    • magestically suggests...

      Awesome! I’m glad it turned out well for you! We love blackened chicken here. Fish, because of it’s flaky flesh is a little harder to blacken, but it’s also delicious!

  5. tuk molodically asserts...

    Thanks for the info.

    I was wondering what “high temperature” and/or “hot” means.

    For instance, I once read a method for determining the right temperature for some cooking was to drip water on the pan and if it dances, it was ok but if it evaporated quickly, your temp was too high. I generally consider this to be a “medium” temp. and it works for me.

    For blackened cooking, you just mention “high” and/or “hot”. Is there a temp. range I should be looking for or some way to know when the temp is right?

    txs

    • strikingly remarks...

      Hi Tuk,

      Temperature wise, I usually cook mine on gas mark 6 or 7, depending on my mood. That’s around 400°F to 425°F. Hope that helps. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. La Donna Stough victoriously affirms...

    Thank you so much for the article. I have been blackening fish all wrong. Spices are great, but the fish has always stuck to the cast iron skillet. I never use melted butter I have used olive oil. It never got hot enough I guess. Makes sense now. Thanks again, supper was delish and the blacken was still on the fish.

  7. Thor molodically says...

    When blackening chicken I like to sear both sides of the meat for a couple of minutes and then put the skillet into a 350 degree oven to finish, this works especially well with thicker breasts. My rub consists of smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and dried oregano. The smokiness of the paprika and cumin really enhance the blackening process

  8. Eric molodically divulges...

    “Maybe flames” is a slight understatement. I’ll try blackening chicken on the grill next time.

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